Picasso said, “Art is a lie that lets us see truth.” I lie daily in fiction and it feels as you’d suspect: heady and subversive.
Telling what never happened as if it did (or what did happen but not exactly as it did) bestows a power that’s a little daunting. Why do it? I grow along with the reader, having a shared truth. We both win.
Here are the opening few paragraphs of my short story that appeared in 2012 Shaking One magazine
Nearly Everything is Clear to Him
Reverend Carlson leans against the walnut pulpit, hovering like an elongated crow; black robes, bald head with wire-rimmed glasses tight to his temples.
Billy Taylor sits in the congregation between his parents, mind on the 11 p.m. train to college. Billy’s father smells of aftershave. Tiny hairs on his neck his razor missed. His mother craning to see who’s sitting behind them. Swish of pantyhose as she crosses her trim legs.
It’s hot in Clayton, New York this Sunday, muggy in the church, and Billy loosens his necktie. That afternoon he’s to meet his friends Cliff and Zach for beer, pizza, maybe a last movie. Cliff’s off to Illinois, Zach to Penn State, Billy to N.Y.U.
Billy scans the church — the high vaulted ceiling, eggshell-blue and white woodwork, stained glass windows with scenes of Baby Jesus, Joseph, Mary, Magi, goats, sheep. Light streams through them, throwing colors across the floor, and he likes the abstract display the colors make there better than when illuminating the Bible stories on the glass. Did he ever really believe in them? That he didn’t gives him a hollow feeling. Was it the stories’ fault, or his? And the church’s rituals he’d undergone through the years – baptism, confirmation, communion – these are dull, fading memories.
Billy doesn’t feel as good as he expected to today. His freedom is finally here, but he’s dispirited. This confuses him, and he hates being confused.
Reverend Carlson speaks, his voice modulated, mellow. “To our young people going out into the world this fall, away to college, I hope that experience will have special value, that you’ll study, learn, experiment, grow. It’s what college should be all about. In a time of too much materialism and make-a-dollar mentality, I can only urge you — take advantage of the essential university experience. Real life will intrude soon enough.”
All right Reverend Carlson, Billy thinks. Strike a blow against money!